What's That You Say, Mr. Robinson?
May 26, 2008
By Phil Perkins
Another liberal pundit is gleefully sounding the death knell for the Reagan era in American politics. Not satisfied with merely doing that, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson lays the blame for Reagan conservatism's supposed death at the feet of-who else-George W. Bush. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth on either front.
Robinson's recent column makes one false claim or erroneous conclusion after another. For starters, he notes that all three remaining presidential candidates want a far more "activist" role for the federal government. What this statement ignores are two relevant facts. First, McCain's primary success was more a product of media support and the ineptitude of his opposition than any real desire of the Republican base to have him as their nominee. It could be argued that had Mitt Romney not left himself open to charges of flip-flopping and being a Johnny-come-lately to conservatism, he may have given McCain a real run for his money. Second, Reagan himself-although famously stating in his first inaugural address that government was the problem more than the solution-was largely unsuccessful in slowing its growth, as evidenced by the substantial federal deficits incurred on his watch.
Next, Robinson excoriates Bush for supposedly pushing the "cruel genius of free markets" to absurd extremes. Earth to Eugene: Ever heard of the Medicare prescription drug program? How about this as Exhibit A of the government pushing its boundaries to absurd extremes, cheer-led by the Chief Executive himself? By the way, Eugene, we no longer have what any rational person would call a "free market" in this country. Government regulations and taxation have pretty much stamped out the practice as well as the idea of a truly free and open market for goods and services. Just one small example-let's say I wanted to save a few hundred dollars on my next car purchase by telling the dealer I did not wish to have air bags installed. Further, let's say that dealers wished to offer this option to make their product less expensive and more attractive to some buyers. Sorry, that's not an option, since Uncle Sam requires us to have them.
Then, of course, Robinson has to trot out the Hurricane Katrina debacle as a failure of Bush's "small government" philosophy. Seems to me that there was plenty of blame to go around on this one, starting with Mr. "Chocolate City" himself, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, who somehow failed to harness hundreds of available school buses to help evacuate the population.
To top it off, Robinson blames "government inattention" on the American peoples' apparent attitude, expressed in recent polls, that the country is moving in the wrong direction. This is the same government whose "inattention" to environmentalist whackos has caused the outlawing of incandescent light bulbs in just a few years. This is the same government whose "inattention" to illegal immigrants has nonetheless not stopped Uncle Sam and its states from showering the illegals with an array of benefits that some U.S. citizens can only envy.
To add some flourish to his closing arguments and cement his premise, Robinson claims the three recent special elections of Democrats to seemingly safe Republican House seats tell the GOP that they are being punished for their "ineptitude and lassitude." The ineptitude to which he refers is what he calls "rigid, do-nothing ideology." I'll go along with this, but not in the way Robinson means it. These Republicans, like many others today, were afraid to be conservatives, and in this sense they were inept and did nothing to dispel that image.
To say that George W. Bush has destroyed the last vestiges of Reaganism by being a heartless, mean-spirited conservative is the height of irony. The failure of posing as a so-called "compassionate conservative" to placate the Left should not be lost in moments like this. Nor should we forget the real truth that if Bush has indeed killed Reaganite conservatism, it's because he's blurred to a great degree what it means, or doesn't mean, to be conservative. As a result, his party is in turmoil about which way to proceed in this election year and beyond.
If America is indeed moving in the wrong direction, it has a lot more to do with the ascendancy of a vulgar, shallow popular culture, secular humanism and environmentalism as virtual religions rather than the so-called lack of compassion in its government. The uncertainty we face as a nation today is not so different than what Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden after their sin-insecurity brought about by a deliberate act of rebellion against God, the same God on whom this great nation was built. Those like Eugene Robinson, who thinks that government is the solution to all of our problems, cannot hope to see this basic truth through their rose-colored glasses.